Bush and Iraq: A Punctured State of Denial

President Bush's year-end news conference offered very few clues about what will come next in Iraq, says NPR Senior News Analyst Daniel Schorr. But one thing seems certain: the president's state of denial about the prospects in Iraq has finally been punctured.

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DANIEL SCHORR: President Bush's year end news conference was almost painful to watch. His state of denial appears to have been finally punctured.

MICHELE NORRIS, host:

NPR's senior news analyst, Daniel Schorr.

SCHORR: While he still sees merit in his decision to unseat Saddam Hussein, he ruefully acknowledges that the war in Iraq is not being won and that a greater commitment of manpower will be necessary to sustain the military. He admitted that it was his decision that caused young men to lose their lives, and the loss of good men and women he counted as the most painful aspect of his presidency.

Beyond a show of emotion about the sanguinary state of the war that he launched, Mr. Bush gave no indication of what comes next. His delayed new way forward speech is apparently still being negotiated with the Joint Chiefs of Staff, which has reportedly expressed reservations about demanding even more from the overstressed Army and Marines.

The president denied any clash with the Joint Chiefs. But officially, the military doesn't clash with the commander in Chief. He just lets his opinions become known. One plan reportedly being considered involves a surge, that is a temporary deployment of reinforcements to stabilize Baghdad. A decision is needed in the next few weeks, not only because of the president's speech, but because Congress will have to act soon to continue to fund the war effort. The president has apparently sought to buy some time by sending his new defense secretary Robert Gates to Baghdad for a fresh look at the situation.

Meanwhile, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is going to the Middle East early in the new year to drum up support from the so-called mainstream states -Jordan, Egypt and Saudi Arabia - for stability in Iraq, Lebanon and the Palestinian Territories. Her mission apparently is to assure them that the American military will not pull out precipitously.

Caught between these contending forces, that's what you call a quagmire.

This is Daniel Schorr.

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